As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month (April), Niswonger Children’s Hospital wants everyone to know the signs of child abuse and how to prevent it, as well as how to help children who are being abused.
When a child is being abused, it is up to an adult to get help. But sometimes it can be hard to recognize when a child is being abused.
“Abuse can come from parents, stepparents, other relatives, babysitters, teachers, coaches or even older children,” said Dr. Debra Mills, a professor at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine, who is board-certified in child abuse pediatrics and practices at ETSU Pediatrics and Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “It can happen anywhere, including at home, at school or in child care.”
There are several different kinds of abuse. Signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises, broken bones, black eyes, burns or bites. Signs of sexual abuse include bedwetting or nightmares, difficulty walking or sitting, or demonstrating unusual sexual knowledge or behavior. Verbal or emotional abuse can show up as extremes in behavior, delays in emotional or physical development, or inappropriately adult or infantile behavior. Children who are neglected may beg for or steal money, be absent frequently from school, lack sufficient clothing for the weather, or lack needed medical or dental care.
Luckily, there are some things everyone can do to help prevent child abuse.
Be a friend to a parent. Ask how their children are doing. Draw on your own experiences to provide reassurance and support. If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear.
Be a friend to a child. Remember their names. Smile when you talk with them. Ask them about their day at school. Send them a card in the mail. Show you care.
Talk to your neighbors about looking out for one another’s children. Encourage a supportive spirit among parents in your apartment building or on your block. Show that you are involved.
Give your used clothing, furniture and toys for use by another family. This can help relieve the stress of financial burdens that parents sometimes take out on their kids.
Volunteer your time and money for programs in your community that support children and families, like parent support groups or day care centers.
The Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
In Tennessee, you can also call 877-237-0004 or visit http://state.tn.us/youth/childsafety.htm. In Virginia, call 800-552-7096 or visit www.dss.virginia.gov/family/cps/index.html. Kentuckians can call 800-752-6200 or visit http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/childsafety.htm. North Carolina residents can visitwww.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/cps/index.htm.